At the end of 2017, he added yet another when the group opened Hong Kong’s first ultra-luxe movie theatre, Emperor Cinemas, in Central’s historic Entertainment Building. As well as plush seating and a host of perks, the cinema features a gourmet concession stand, Roomsbar, operated by restaurant group Maximal Concepts.
In response to a global slow-down in cinema ticket sales, fuelled in part by the rise of on-demand streaming services, cinemas have started to adapt. Increasingly, movie theatres are turning into holistic lifestyle destinations, offering a more premium experience as an alternative to Netflix and chill.
Emperor Group is the first in Hong Kong to latch on to this global trend, bringing a new cinema experience for the city’s film fanatics. “We can all go home and watch a movie on our iPad, but coming here is a different experience,” says Yeung. Here are four ways Emperor Cinemas was built to stand out from the crowd.
Honouring Hong Kong’s heritage
Emperor Group waited for the perfect location before opening its first cinema in Hong Kong. Entertainment Building was a “golden opportunity” says Yeung, praising the building’s “great heritage”. The storied building in Central housed a theatre in one form or another through much of the 20th century. “Not every cinema operator would take on this place because of the smaller size and smaller houses,” says Yeung.
“Size is not a problem,” he adds. “Everything is about quality” and a desire to deliver the “best of the best” to stand out in a packed market. “We have better screens, a better audio system and great seats.”
Indeed, all houses at Emperor Cinemas offer reclining leather chairs, while the VIP room, The Coronet, includes footrests, a pillow and cashmere blanket, charging stations and a wait staff to serve cocktails and gourmet snacks at your seat. It’s all designed to recreate the sense of occasion that once surrounded an evening out at the cinema.
Yeung compares the experience at Emperor Cinemas to eating at a fine dining restaurant. “I could just go to ParknShop and buy something for 30 dollars to fill me up, but you go [to a fine dining restaurant] to enjoy the view, the service—everything together.”
Innovating the ticketing system
Emperor Cinemas’ app makes the most of e-ticketing technology to enhance the user experience while also reducing ticket prices. Users book with the app, complete the transaction using Apple Pay and use the auto-generated QR code as their e-ticket.
“It’s a win-win situation,” says Yeung. “The consumer saves time, and the cinema saves on hardware and headcount. The money we save, we rebate it back to the consumer.”
“What’s ridiculous to me is when you purchase tickets online you have this service charge of 10-12 dollars. I’m always questioning, ‘Where’s the service coming from?’ If I’m purchasing them online by myself, no one is helping me! So we waive the service charge.”
A lifestyle destination
In an age where we expect to be able to watch what we want, when we want on the device we want, cinemas need to offer something new.
“Now, people can watch Netflix, they can even pirate a movie on their computer. But part of going to the cinema is social. It’s a journey. You come to enjoy and you come to relax, to bond with your family, or your friends… Most important to me is the experience when you come in. That’s why we worked with Maximal Concepts [to operate high-end concession stand Roomsbar]. You can get your cocktail and premium food before you come into the cinema. These kinds of experiences enhance the whole journey.”
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